By Rick Geffken |
Though much of the hoopla surrounding the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle has mercifully passed, Melissa Ziobro, Monmouth University professor, reminded a Tinton Falls audience that the recent British matrimonial event was just the latest in a tradition of across-the-pond “romances” between members of the European royalty and American brides.
Ziobro regaled 25 very interested women seniors (and two brave men) on May 21 with stories of “American Women and Royal Marriages.” The Harry/Meghan Wedding was certainly spectacular, but the joining together of Old and New World couples was not as uncommon as we might think.
Ziobro is a specialist professor of public history in the Department of History and Anthropology at Monmouth University and frequently writes and lectures on women’s issues. During this recent presentation, Ziobro admitted: “There are important issues and there are interesting issues. This most recent royal wedding falls into the latter, but it has increased attention to the Gilded Age phenomena of what were called ‘American Dollar Princesses.’ ”
“By some counts there may have been as many as 500 of these marriages between American women of ‘new money’ who were betrothed to the relatively impoverished European aristocracy,” said Ziobro. Their motivations included trading “cash for class.” After the American Civil War, many of the daughters of the newly wealthy saw titled European nobility as a way to attain duchess, or even princess status.
In Europe, the landed gentry needed to find income to replace their disappearing earnings from centuries-old agricultural endeavors. Their expensive to maintain manor houses were becoming increasingly unsustainable as well. Enter American money. Although British nobility were the top choice for most young women seeking these marriages, they also married Germans, Austrians and Italians.
Sixty-plus years before Meghan Markle walked down the aisle of St. George’s Chapel to wed Prince Harry, older Americans still remember when movie star Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956. Both appear to be true love matches, not exchanges of hard currency for titles. Harry does not lack for resources.
Ziobro noted that the TV series “Downton Abbey” sparked her to examine arranged marriages which began in the late 19th century. She laughed recalling how the subject caught her attention. “I was watching ‘Downton Abbey,’ and like any good historian I can’t watch TV and enjoy myself, I have to start researching things, like who Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham was modeled after.”
Ziobro soon discovered that some New Jersey women were among the many “American Dollar Princesses.”
American newspapers often ran lists of American heiresses marrying noblemen, including the amount of money the young women “took out of the country” with them, often half a million dollars or more. Of particular interest to The Two River Times readers, and probably surprising to most, is the story of Miss Florence Hazard of Shrewsbury, daughter of the owner of the world-famous Hazard Ketchup Factory, E. C. Hazard. Florence was only 16 years old when she married Prince Franz von Auersperg of Austria in June 1899. She was looking to improve her station in life, and incidentally her fiancé’s.
Von Auersperg was part of a noble family and had enjoyed a spirited, which is to say wanton, youth according to contemporary accounts at the time of the wedding. One paper noted: “The engagement is hailed by court and aristocratic circles with gratification, as the Prince seemed to have hopelessly wrecked his life by fast living and gambling before he left Vienna three years ago.”
Though he was studying to be a physician on Long Island when he met Ms. Hazard, her father’s success no doubt made her more attractive to von Auersperg. After years of creditors chasing down the von Auerspergs, Florence finally had enough and divorced the prince in 1915.
This article was first published in the June 7-June 14, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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